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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Urban Homesteading

Posted by Dawn-Ann on July 20, 2008

First of all, have a look at this video to see the source of my inspiration:

I have decided to start working toward building an “Urban Homestead” right here in Calgary. I couldn’t find a lot about such development in Canada, so I may be a pioneer in this. Following are some pictures and notes of what I am starting with. Then I’ll post more pictures as things develop.

By the way, in case you’re wondering why we don’t just buy a REAL homestead in the country, Tom is a city boy and will NOT consider moving outside of Calgary. He likes the idea of retiring in this home he’s worked so hard at fixing up (and who can blame him?) and he likes being close to the grandbabies (another good argument). So, let’s see – my options are stick it out here with the love of my life or head out to find me a plot of land somewhere. No contest. This country girl is staying here with her Honey.

Here is the back yard – typical lawn and shrubs. The patch of dark dirt to the right is where we have just seeded some new grass. The willow’s main function is providing shade and sentimental value. We rescued it when the neighbor hacked down his huge old willow; gathered up some of the twigs, rooted them and planted them. It grows like a weed and is only about six years old in this picture!

Another angle of the back yard. It’s a work in progress. If we were ever starving we could plant all those flower and herb beds to veggies. Spuds seem to work well here, as witnessed by the next picture…

This is my raised bed garden. It gets a lot of sun every day (Calgary is very sunny); in fact, along the wall I think it is TOO hot for those poor little tomatoes. But they are bravely flowering and we’ll get some cherry tomatoes off of them yet.

The soil in these beds is wonderful. We have a little compost bin that I take from to top them up with. We have also crumbled eggshells, peanut shells and other such things directly into this dirt. Adding eggshells (calcium) is what cured “blossom end rot” in my zucchinis one year.

From top left to bottom right we have: Potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, radishes and more potatoes. There is also some Swiss chard and more tomatoes in big pots behind me. The potted tomatoes are doing really well and are HUGE. It’s not so hot where they are.

We just planted these currants last week. We had a sunny spot (faces roughly south-southeast) where I decided I wanted some kind of berry so I can make jam. These guys are doing beautifully here and I think will turn out to be quite robust. It’ll probably be a few years before I can make jam, though.

A closeup of a currant bush. If I’m remembering correctly, they are related to the grape and the leaves look quite similar, don’t they? The little berries grow in clusters, as well. We bought two black currant bushes and two red ones.

Some front views of the house. It’s a modest little bungalow with all your typical wasted yard space. I have BIG plans for this front yard, but it will take some planning and a few $$$. Basically, I will want to fence it off, surround the yard with trees, bushes and flowers, and create a little courtyard in the centre. The trees and bushes that I use can be ornamental AND functional. For instance, I recently found out there is a kind of hardy apricot that will grow up here, so I’ll plant a couple of those.

Where the big white bags are sitting are where the ground was torn up to put our new sidewalk in. I’m sure the neighbors are getting sick of the look of that, but we’ll get to it as soon as I figure out the layout of the new front yard.

More works in progress. On the left is the sidewalk to our front step. I will probably leave that part strictly ornamental. Those cedars make the soil acidic and besides, there’s nothing wrong with SOME ornamental. In between the bushes we have new plantings this year. We are trying out some ornamental grass in the back and some hardy, dry-climate Stonecrop (sedum) in the front. And wouldn’t you know it – the year we plant the hardy dry-climate stuff is the year we have a lush, green summer. So far.

To the right is the space between the side of the house and the neighbor’s fence. I have not decided what to do with that yet. Along the fence is almost all shady almost all the time, but I’m sure there are things that will grow in those conditions, as well.

So that’s it for now; that’s what we’re starting with. It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of dollars to do what I’d like to do, but it’ll be an adventure. Some of the things I would like to accomplish over the next few years are:

  • Learn more about solar power and get us off the grid (as I said, Calgary is sunny).
  • See about getting a laying hen or two in the city (although critters DO tie you to the homestead and we DO want to travel… hmmm…).
  • Build up the front yard.

Some things we have to contend with that the California family doesn’t:

  • Extreme cold in the winter.
  • Much shorter growing season, although our longer summer days pack more punch into the growing seasons we do have!


5 Responses to “Urban Homesteading”
  1. Stacey says:

    Hey Dawn – I have been on your blog before and wondering how you’re doing with the whole ‘living of your yard’ thing? I’m a Calgarian starting to do the same thing and found this today which made me scream. Thoughts?

  2. Dawn-Ann says:

    Wow, that’s just wild. Thanks for showing me that, Stacey! I fell back on the urban homesteading last year (it was a tumultuous one for us), but I plan on getting back on track. If we ever get spring, that is! I want to make a bigger garden this year and maybe do some canning and freezing. How are you doing with yours?

  3. Dawn-Ann says:

    I think someone is mistaken. I went to the Dervaes site and they have a little sign on it that says, “Despite recent internet publishing, we are NOT suing bloggers. This is a false and unfounded claim.” I’m relieved. I just couldn’t see them doing anything like that! :)

  4. Stacey says:

    no make no mistake they have trademarked those names and a few more, have forced Facebook to remove all that use the term (and Facebook complied) and have sent “cease and desist” letters to everyone using it for blogs, articles…even the Orange County Library has received a letter because they used it in describing a seminar on gardening and canning. No they are not suing, but the family who’s blog I sent you (who were interviewed within the Radical Homemakers book by Shannon Hayes) wrote a book the Dervaeses have demanded stop of promotion for because it is entitled “The Urban Homestead” and written in 2008. The family has had to seek legal backing for themselves and the publishing company that put out their book. I went everywhere to get the truth and sadly the Dervaes have lost my good opinion of them. And it would appear with many others Hopefully they will stop sending out hate letters.

  5. Dawn-Ann says:

    Thanks Stacey. I did dig a little further and it does seem that what you say is true. It makes me very sad because I really liked the Dervaes family and their website and everything they were doing. I guess sometimes just because someone does one great thing we tend to think they’re great in all areas of their lives and set them up on pedestals. Then we’re disappointed when we find out they’re only human, eh? Anyway, no one has mailed me telling me to cease and desist but maybe that’s because I’m a small-blog wannabe! :)

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